Discovering A Healthier Life

By Laurie Steelsmith N. D., L.Ac.
Wednesday - August 11, 2005
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Sheila Fox, Debra Duggan-Takagi, Laurie Steelsmith
and Aubrey Hawk with Steelsmith’s recently
published book

I have the greatest job in the world: helping people discover ways to take the best care of themselves and their families. This October will mark my 12th year of full-time practice as a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist in Hawaii. I moved here in 1993 after graduating from Bastyr University, America’s leading center for the study of complementary and alternative medicine, with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine and a master’s in acupuncture.

One of the reasons I chose to study alternative medicine was my family history of breast cancer. Not only my mother, but my maternal grandmother, great aunt and first cousin all had the disease, and not all of them have survived it. I knew that I could either choose a life that would increase the likelihood of disease, or a life that would make me optimally healthy. I’m happy to say that I chose the latter, and as a result I’ve made it my life mission to help others discover that they have the same choice.

I founded Kahala Natural Health Center in 1996 with a simple business philosophy: Put your energy and financial resources into what you value most, keep your intentions clear, and you will succeed. My primary goal with my business is to help as many people as possible while continuing to provide quality care. This means taking the time needed for each patient: First office visits are scheduled for an hour, and return office visits are 45 minutes. I spend a lot of time teaching patients what they can do to create better health in their lives.

Since there’s a limit to the number of patients I can see in a day, my teaching expanded to public speaking not long after I opened my business. I took a four-level professional public speaking course, and over the years I’ve addressed many audiences at universities, hospitals, professional groups and health expos. Public speaking has also been a great way to build my practice and spread the word about natural medicine.

Because of the powerful effects I’ve seen natural medicine have on the patients I work with, I wrote the book Natural Choices for Women’s Health; How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness, which was recently published by Random House. From a business standpoint, this is the most practical way to get my message out to a much wider audience. The book is already in the hands of many thousands of people — only six weeks after being published, it has sold out and is now in its second printing — which means it will continue to extend my message far beyond my daily practice in Hawaii. In addition, the book gives me a platform from which I am tapping into national media. In the past two months alone, I’ve been invited to speak on more than 20 national radio programs, including Gary Null’s Voice of America, New York Public Radio, and Global Medicine Hunters; I’ve also been interviewed by numerous national magazines, including Woman’s World, Self, Natural Health, Whole Life Times and OnFitness.

Practicing naturopathic and Chinese medicine in Hawaii is a unique challenge. In Washington state, where I was trained, most insurance companies cover alternative health care, whereas in Hawaii only HMAA offers minimal coverage, so the majority of patients pay for my services out of pocket. And in Washington state the scope of practice is much broader, allowing naturopathic physicians to prescribe many pharmaceutical drugs. It would be much easier to run my business if we had those same laws here in Hawaii, or if I worked in another state, but I stay in Hawaii because I’m committed to my patients. Despite the limitations, I have a thriving practice, booked with new patients four months in advance. This is due not only to my training, my passion for my work and my great employees, but also to the fact that natural medicine can be extremely effective. Every day I have the opportunity to witness people choosing health, becoming empowered and changing their lives in wonderful ways.

Next week: Scott Kuklish, senior vice president and director of PM Realty Group, Pacific Region

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